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Some DAs, public defenders to get raise

Some assistant and deputy district attorneys and assistant state public defenders are likely to see a raise in the state’s 2016-2017 fiscal year.

A state budget panel unanimously voted Tuesday to provide more than $550,000 to the state district attorneys and more than $480,000 to the Office of State Public Defender to support a 2 percent increase for publicly employed lawyers who meet certain criteria, mostly having to do with experience and performance.

A co-chairman of the panel, state Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said that there was not enough money to help individual district attorneys.

“Rather than us picking winners and loser, we went with pay progression,” said Nygren. “It was a request of the (district attorneys) themselves.”

Democratic state Rep. Chris Taylor of Madison; state Sen. Lena Taylor of Milwaukee; and state Rep. Gordon Hintz of Oshkosh all said the motion was not enough to help district attorneys across the state.

“We decided, just like K-12 education and the UW System, that pay progression is just not a priority,” said Hintz.

Gov. Scott Walker’s plan would have decreased the money for the State Public Defender’s Office by more than $2 million and the money for district attorneys by more than $3.6 million. However, it does not eliminate the statutory structure and appropriations for pay progression.

Under the state’s current compensation plan, the minimum hourly salary for assistant public defenders, as well as for assistant and deputy district attorneys, is $23.67 an hour, which comes out to $49,430 annually. The maximum hourly salary for those employees is $57.22 an hour, which comes out to $119,472 annually. After being employed for 12 months, newly hired attorneys may receive up to a 10 percent increase each year until they hit that maximum salary level.

According to the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, district attorneys were provided more than $1 million in the 2013-2014 fiscal year and more than $3.6 million in the 2014-2015 fiscal year for salary increases under the state’s pay-progression plan. The State Public Defender’s Office was given more than $900,000 in the 2013-2014 fiscal year and more than $1.9 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year to give raises under the pay progression plan.

Thus, in 2013-2014, 332 eligible assistant and deputy district attorneys, on average, received a 6.6 percent raise, and 152 of them received a $2,000 lump sum payment in the 2014-2015 year. In the State Public Defender’s Office, 303 assistant state public defenders received a 4.4 percent raise on average in 2014-2015.

About Erika Strebel, [email protected]

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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